Thomas Paine's "Common Sense," published on January 10, 1776, was an effective and convincing summary of the many reasons why the American colonies should not be controlled by a despotic ruler, King George III, from an island across the sea. In addition to the political and logistical argument against overseas rule of the American colonies, Paine outlined compelling reasons for the creation of a new form of government in America, one based on Republicanism and elected officials, rather than on a parliamentary monarchy. Although his was not the first argument for the new Republican form of government, Paine's "Common Sense" was an incendiary work that stood behind the colonists' commitment to wage war against the English crown in pursuit of their independence.Continue Reading
"Common Sense" is structured in four parts. In Part I, Paine writes of the distinction between society and government. He states that government is necessary for men to live in communities, or society, and its role is to ensure that the people live peacefully and abide by laws. After outlining the need for government and elections, Paine then examines the governing practices of King George III and the English Parliament. His view is an extremely critical one because he finds it to be a government based on hereditary rule and aristocratic tyranny. In Part II of "Common Sense," Paine proceeds to describe how the English concept of a constitutional monarchy, or a "mixed state," is a failure because it does not contribute to the needs of the people.
In Part III, Paine comments on the state of affairs in the American colonies and the developing hostilities between them and the overseas British government. In Part IV, Paine presents an optimistic assessment of why the American Colonies would win a war of independence with England.Learn more about US History